The idea that I would wait until the very last minute to prepare an outfit for a special occasion is not new. Sometimes it works. Many times it doesn’t. A brief and selective review:

DIDN’T WORK 1988— Let’s begin with a Cinderella story, for which I have no photograph except this one.

Some things are best left to the imagination, anyway. In this princess scary-tale I’m in 8th grade. White jeans are where it’s at. I don’t have a pair of white jeans, but I do have bleach. So on a Wednesday afternoon as I’m walking home from school, I think to myself, “I’ll just throw some blue jeans into the bathtub with a gallon of Clorox, and then wear me some new white jeans to church tonight, yah!”

It’s a plan. I leave the jeans soaking for a half hour and then wring them out, run them in the dryer, and I’m good to go. Rinsing the jeans never crosses my mind, but it will cross my derriere before the night is through. I throw on the jeans, grinning as I apply my Kissing Potion rollerball lip gloss. I tease those bangs up. I look fourteen-fabulous.

I go to church in my oh-so-clean-white-jeans. After I am there about twenty minutes, I notice the jeans are not looking so clean and white anymore. They are kind of looking like Hellmann’s mayonnaise. They are smelling like Hellmann’s mayonnaise, too, but I ignore it. I chalk up the slightly off color to the fluorescent lights, and don’t think of my jeans again until the tops of my thighs erupt in flames. When I look down to see what has caused the sudden burning and itching, I find the color has changed again. If they made a Crayola crayon from the color those jeans have become, they could safely call it electric urine. In fact, the smell the jeans are emitting could be called electric urine, as well. I think, This is going wrong. Very wrong. This has to be as bad as it gets.

But, no, this story will not reach it’s miserable climax until ten minutes later when my jeans begin disappearing before my eyes. They disintegrate, melting into the air … or into my skin, I am not sure which. The holes start small and grow by the minute. If anything touches these now bus yellow jeans– which have begun to smell like a toxic waste dump– they rip apart. This is unfortunate, because at this point I am clawing at my legs in desperation. The sting is relentless. My knees have become raw flesh. My rear end is on FI-YER. As the Bible teacher continues teaching, the holes in my jeans grow and grow, and all I can think about is running to the car before time runs out …

And that is the end of the story for you, my friend. Sorry.

DID WORK 1991— This dress, my junior year, worked. I love this photograph because while my mother was posing me in her DIY Olan Mills vignette, the doorbell rang, and my date arrived (The eyes!). The outfit worked even though I had turned the satin inside out (all except the shoulder swoops) and made the dress with the wrong side of the fabric because I didn’t realize satin was so unforgiving to a girl’s figure until I’d already bought 5 yards of it and come to the end of my budget. I finished the dress the day before the event.

DIDN’T WORK 1992— This dress, my senior year, didn’t work. Maybe I got cocky after my success with that first red dress above. I made this next sad dress the day before the event, also. Except I didn’t do any of the things I had done right with the first dress. I didn’t line this one and thought it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t hem it by hand and thought it wouldn’t matter. I started applying those sequins two hours before my date arrived and thought it wouldn’t matter. My mother kept saying, “That’s not how you apply sequins, Nika. Really. ThatsnothowyouapplysequinsThatsnothowyouapplysequinsThatsnothowyouapplysequins. Just quit, now. It looks fine without the sequins.”

To which I responded, “Let me FINISH THIS, MOTHERRRRR!” I continued free-handing the sequin rat-maze on that poor dress until the last minute. Which wasn’t easy in a full set of Lee Press On Nails. When the doorbell rang, I tied the last knot, threw on the dress, grabbed my chemo wig off the Styrofoam head on the counter and answered the door. I love this picture, regardless of the mess, I mean, dress. I love it because my date was one of my favorite and most humorous friends. We laughed all evening.

But that belt buckle is not a joke. Big as a dessert plate, and I thought he looked boss. Let’s sing all together now: Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty state …

DID WORK 2015— These are not my only last-minute sewing stories, but I will skip forward in time to today. Because my TEDx outfit worked!

The week before my talk, I couldn’t think of an outfit. I had been considering it for the four months since they had invited me to speak, but I had thought and thought and had come up with nothing. So I started fresh and said, OK, ok, ok … if I had all the money in the world and could buy anything, what would it be? Well, I decided I would buy something Ted Baker, my new style crush. (I may have subconsciously thought of Ted B. because of TEDx, not sure). Here, have a sample or two. I love all of these:

 I mean, really:


  Ted Baker Dresses & Skirts - Ted baker "edella" dress size 1 nwt!!

Another answer to the “if I had all the money in the world” question is that I would buy something vintage Ralph Lauren, who is my forever style crush. Except for Polo Bear. No love for Polo Bear:

This is the only explanation for Polo Bear:

But Polo Bear aside, I love almost everything else RL, all the way from the 1970s to today:

 Notice the bedsheets right there … we’ll get to those in a second. But first, just a few more:


There’s no getting around it; Ralph is more than just a pretty face. He knows what he’s doing.

 As I continued to think about my TEDx outfit options, I spent some time looking through these Ted Baker and RL photos, trying to find themes I like and trying to figure out a way to re-create one of these looks without having all-the-money-in-the-world. Then it hit me– though I may not have any extra cash lying around, I do have extra bed linens lying around, and one set happens to be my black floral Ralph Lauren sheets from my college days (see above). Ah-hah! I decided I would sew a shirt out of those sheets, which would almost be like having a custom-made Ralph Lauren garment … if you choose to think about it that way, and I do.

Now, I usually make dresses and skirts and garments that do not require buttons and collars and time consuming details. I can do those things, however they are such a pain. But I figured out a way to get around the problem of details this time! You know that Food Network show, Semi-Homemade Cooking? Well, I made a semi-homemade sheet shirt. (Say that five times fast.)

Watch me.

First, I chose a shirt I don’t wear anymore. In fact, I took it out of the give-away bag to Goodwill. Which is hilarious because I bought it at Goodwill in the first place. I think this may be the most recycled shirt in history. It has had chance after chance after chance. I wanted my new pretend-RL shirt to fit like this one, so I took it apart with that little seam ripper right there.

This took ten minutes. Next, I planned to reuse the collar and button placket, so I soaked them in detergent to really whiten them. 

Then, I located those old sheets in the back of my closet. I still had them long after I sold my last twin bed. You just don’t get rid of anything Ralph Lauren unless you have to. It’s timeless. (These sheets were purchased in 1995. And they had not faded a bit, after many washes. You get what you pay for). I laid the parts of the shirt out on one of the sheets and used them as a pattern. Incidentally, I used the fitted sheet for this shirt because I still think I may use the flat for curtains one day.  


Next, I sewed the basic parts of the shirt together. I used one swatch of the original shirt material to make a neck label. While I had been cutting the fabric, I kept hearing in my heart, “I have been with you wherever you have gone,” so I googled that phrase and put the Scripture reference as my own personal label. I thought it would bring me great comfort on the morning of my TEDx talk, in case I was nervous. When it came to it, I wasn’t actually nervous that day, but it was still nice to remember that God has always been with me and will continue to be.

 The collar and button placket were finally clean, so I laid them out flat to dry. I thought using the dryer would lead to more difficult ironing later.  You’ll see how I used that dotted sash from another old shirt.

 When they dried, it was super easy to sew them back on. I almost felt like I was cheating.

  The sleeves aren’t gathered; they have one little box pleat, which I thought was so cute:

  All done!When I wore it, I paired it with an old pin-stripe vest from forever ago and that dotted sash that I used as a tie.

My favorite detail here is my tie pin, which is a hand embroidered shank button that my mom bought in Europe in the 1960s but never used for anything. I cannot imagine how someone stitched this tiny thing. I could not even get my camera close enough to show the detail on it.

Oh, also … I bought polyester pants from Goodwill for $5, and then tried them on at home. Too wide for my taste.

 So, I used a pair of jeans as a pattern to adjust the width. Then I cut two inches off the length and created a stitched crease down the front of the pants.

Ahh! Now my ankles can breathe! Plus I gave my shoes some “lipstick” with the ribbons.

Here I am in it! It was a great speaking outfit for so many reasons: 1) You could run the mic cord inside the vest. 2) You could put the mic battery pack in the back pocket of my pants, and because they are black, it didn’t stand out. 3) My shoes were safer to walk in than any other kind I could have picked. 4) The shirt hung over my pants’ zipper, so I wasn’t constantly wondering if my zipper was down (I am always thinking this). 5) I was comfortable. The whole entire outfit cost $5 for the pants. I already had everything else. I even bought the shoes with a gift card I’d been saving since Christmas. Ho, ho, ho!

At the time of this writing, I am wearing my semi-homemade sheet shirt yet again. Behold my new favorite. You might be seeing a lot of it. (Incidentally, the curtain you see beside me is also an old flat sheet. I love to work with sheets. They are durable. And they come with a nice, wide hem. Whoop!).

I would love to know if you have ever made an outfit out of something unconventional. Tell me in the comments section.

Have a great week!


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